Interpreting yogic experiences as merely psychological experiences

The accusation is often made about missionaries that ‘you Westerners bring your Christian morality even when you are not believing Christians any more, you bring your Christian morality with you and then when you study yoga, or Buddhism, or something like that, you assume that there is Christian morality.  Then there is the yoga doctrine, or Buddhist doctrine, on top of that when, in fact, the morality isn’t there.’  Now to make a point in Chapter XIII of the Gita verses 7 to 11 there are twenty qualities which are given to acquire knowledge – they are themselves called ‘knowledge’ because they are the means of knowledge.

Now our teacher compared this to a schoolboy who wants to do good but he can’t do good; he can do a little, but if he studies hard and becomes a skilled engineer then he can offer his services to his community and he can do great good and he gave an example.  Some Indian villagers lived near a swamp and of course there was malaria there because the flies bred in the swamp, and one way of doing good was to nurse the sick with malaria, that was one way, but the other thing was skilled engineering to drain the swamp and then the malaria disappeared.  He gave that example.   He said the yoga is to qualify ourselves by being able to do good by taking the root of the evil out – and not simply by patching up the effects.

The people who are making wars all over the world are not starving, there is a feeling if only the poor could be fed all would be well when they become well fed, that’s just it.  No, not at all, as Mother Teresa said ‘we may be starving in the East but somehow we get by, but you in the West are spiritually starving and you do not get by.’  People now are plagued with anxiety more and more, people are committing suicide, but yoga, our teacher said, ‘is the remedy,’ and this is the true gift.  Now when those people say ‘well those qualities leading to knowledge don’t say anything about doing good to anyone.’  No, but the seventeenth chapter of the Gita contains the three pillars of yoga, gift is one, tapas – austerity – is another and sacrifice or worship is the third, and he says, ‘gift, the material gift, yes it exists, but this is not the fundamental thing.  It can rectify the immediate situation but it will reoccur again.  Life is a suffering, you can mitigate the suffering but not cure it.  The second gift is the gift of courage, but the third gift, which he said is the gift of yoga, is the gift of wisdom, he said this is the gift for which the world is starving.

Well now, coming to the actual text again, one of the points that our teacher stressed is there is a tendency to psychologise everything and to make the yogic experiences into merely psychological experiences, to make the yoga guide to deal with simply the higher aspirations of man.  Not God made man in his image, but man has made God in his image, and he said to take the holy text as what they clearly say.  Well, ‘I can’t accept all of this.  I can accept some of it but not this, this doesn’t agree with what our teacher says, with conclusions of modern scientist or with common sense or practical experience, or my actual experience.  So I will set this aside.’  Now for instance of the great vision in chapter XI of the Gita that this was a subjective vision of Arjuna, he passed into a state in which he saw this vision of the whole universe, it is clearly subjective but the Gita itself directly contradicts that because it was seen by somebody else, it was seen by Sanjaya, and at the end of the Gita the point is reinforced: Sanjaya says, ‘when I think back to that wonderful vision I am in ecstasy.’  So the Gita itself makes it clear this was not simply a subjective experience. It was an experience of Arjuna, but it was also seen by others.

In the same way even St. Paul’s experience at Damascus was not simply subjective, there are three accounts of it.  He was overwhelmed by this light, it blinded him and then he heard the voice, but there were others there who saw the light or heard the voice, it was not simply a subjective experience, and we have to be prepared to give up some of the restrictions on our thinking which are artificially imposed, and this has happened in the past.  One of the reasons that Newton did not want to publish his researches into gravity was that he was accused by his opponent, and he did not like controversy, of reviving mediaeval occultism.  In those days, in his time, the theory was things fell to earth because invisible particles came from space and pressed us all down to earth, things moved because invisible particles drove them along.

There had been some difficulties to explain where did the invisible particles come from, but they thought ‘well that just happened, that’s natural, it’s a fact,’ and then Newton came up with a mysterious force acting at a distance.  As his opponent said ‘ghostly fingers stretching out through space to catch hold of it.’  A fantasy!  Well they had to change but it is worth realising they felt things moved because they were pushed.   This idea of invisible forces pulling things couldn’t be explained – quite fantastic, not scientific at all.  Well it is worth remembering that because the text, not merely of the Gita but for instance the ….. , will say that the identifications with OM do correspond to internal states but they also correspond to external identifications, and when someone goes into Samadhi on OM as the whole of the waking state, everything physical, then he becomes what is shown in that eleventh chapter of the Gita.  Well we can say that this is patently absurd.  Someone sitting in a little room, in a little seat in England, a little island on a little planet, on a not very prominent galaxy, and you are saying that they have consciousness of the whole universe from the most distant star from which the light takes a hundred thousand years to reach it, it is patently absurd and therefore it is poetic.  Well this is the view of the science of 1920, but as (Rontiier?) said if we have to come to terms with Science we have to come to terms with up to date science.  Now let us read from a commentary of 1998, less than two years ago:

Non-locality described the way in which the behaviour of a quantum entity such as an electron is affected not only by what is going on at one point (the ‘locality’ of the entity), but also by events that are going on at other places (other localities), which may in principle be far away across the Universe.  These non-local influences occur instantaneously, as if some form of communication, which Albert Einstein called ‘spooky action at a distance’, operates not just faster than the speed of light, but infinitely fast.

It is important to appreciate that the non-local nature of the quantum world has been demonstrated in experiments.

An electron here is in instant communication with an electron on the other side of the Universe.  Well that is equally absurd and incredible. If it wasn’t for the experiments, as they say, we could never believe it; and in the same way in yoga if it wasn’t for the experiment you couldn’t believe these things.  Now the experiments are given and we have heard them in yoga training but as an example: Understanding the meaning of the word OM, and sitting in a secluded place, if you repeat this holy word rhythmically and slowly and concentrate your mind on it, then after practice, in some cases of a few months and in some cases a few years, your mind passes into a state of consciousness which is not only quite different from the state of our daily consciousness, but much more luminous and highly superior.  No other yoga is needed; if this one practice is carried out you can succeed in having the higher wisdom, the wisdom which is the third eye of human wisdom, which brings man into relationship with reality. He needs three things to acquire proficiency in yoga:  moral discipline, mental discipline, and meditation on OM.

© Trevor Leggett

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